Dear Decaturish – UMCH Provides Unique Possibilities for Decatur
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Like many Decatur parents, I spend part of each weekend during the fall at the United Methodist Children’s Home athletic fields. My daughter’s soccer team and many other Decatur families enjoy the wide-open play spaces, historically and architecturally significant buildings, and views toward the large pond and natural space at the rear of the 77-acre property.
Purchase of the property was approved by the current City Commission, a commission that I seek to be a part of. Though the $40 million purchase price was daunting, the unique opportunity for our community to acquire such a large parcel, a significant portion of which is undeveloped greenspace, was understandably too good to pass up.
We now own this treasure. So what’s next?
Decatur leaders have a city-wide master planning process in mind, and they’ve issued a call for proposals to identify consultants to help guide creation of a community vision and plan for the UMCH property. I hope each of you will participate in the planning process, slated for 2018.
I have high hopes for creative use of the property. Decatur clearly needs to protect its undeveloped greenspace and will certainly do so in compliance with terms of the $11.2 million low-interest loan through the Georgia Environmental Finance Authority. The developed portions of the UMCH property present very interesting possibilities as well, particularly as it relates to collaboration with the City Schools of Decatur, which needs additional athletic practice space and more extracurricular activity space. I recently spoke with a parent volunteer from one of CSD’s LEGO robotics teams who described how lack of practice space limits the team size, disappointing many students who’d like to participate.
Beyond these possibilities, perhaps the most intriguing prospect to me is the creative reuse of the property’s existing residential buildings to provide for workforce housing — addressing one of the city’s most pressing strategic goals while allowing for sensitive and appropriate renovation and preservation of campus character. Be it for teachers, emergency personnel, service workers, artists, or so many others key to a diverse and well-rounded community, the need for housing accessible to those earning between 60% and 120% of Atlanta’s median income (household incomes roughly $35,000 to $75,000) is real. And pressing.
Our city’s success has not been without consequence. How do we create a more diverse inventory of housing that provides for continued and increasing diversity among our residents? How do we ensure that hard working people at every age and across the economic spectrum can find a home here?
The Children’s Home is one resource with the potential to make a real difference. All we need now is the will, and that’s something I’m committed to taking to the City Commission.
Please join me in participating in the city-wide community plan, and please join me at the polls Nov 7.
– Tim Martin is a candidate for Decatur City Commission, District 1, Post A. He and his wife Melanie, a teacher at Clairemont Elementary School, are parents to students at both College Heights and Westchester Elementary. Learn more about Tim’s well-rounded experience and neighbor-driven leadership at timfordecatur.com.
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